By Rio Hale
It was an ordinary day until it wasn’t.
I paid the standard $100 for my salad and cold pressed juice at Whole Foods and pointed out an empty booth beyond the checkout line. My husband promptly made a beeline to it, slid in, and sat down.
I slowly waddled over. My eight-month pregnant frame and I casually tried to slide in next to him, and that’s when it happened: I got stuck. I found myself lodged between the seat and the table. And before I could even process what was happening, I was in tears.
Normally 5’8” and 135lbs, I was currently pushing two bills and had hit my pregnancy (rock) bottom. My husband tried not to laugh as he saw his whale of a wife wedged into a booth, weeping.
Bless his heart. It was funny. Really funny. And part of me knew that. The same part that fondly named this stage of my pregnancy “Sumo Prego.” The same part that told myself I would lose the weight, no problem. The same part that said, nothing matters but the health of your unborn child. Which, of course, was the truth.
But there was also the other part of me. The girl part. The “desperate to be beautiful, desperate to be skinny” part. I wanted to be the cute, pregnant supermodel I saw in magazines. The one who wore skinny jeans until the last few weeks. The one who looked normal from the back and adorable from the front. I wanted to be that girl… but I wasn’t. I just wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I was doing fine in the physique department. I felt attractive and secure. But as my pregnancy progressed, the weight kept coming. The fact that the only things that cured my morning sickness for a few months were cheeseburgers and crackers didn’t help. And, okay, so I didn’t exercise either. It was my first pregnancy, I was 35, and I just wanted to enjoy it.
I did enjoy it until that moment in Whole Foods, when it all came crashing down. Luckily, three weeks later, I was told I was going to need a c-section. The c-section wasn’t lucky, but coming to the end of pregnancy was. My daughter was breach, I had come up to my due date, and they couldn’t turn her. GREAT!
I sauntered into the hospital - all 208lbs of me - ready to meet my daughter and shed the extra weight. Three days and four hours later, I emerged holding a 7lb 8oz baby and weighing in at 205lbs. WHAT?! It was nature’s cruel joke. Again, I cried. Again, my husband laughed. And again, I joined him through my tears.
The recovery for the c-section was surprisingly difficult, but I made it through. Then it was time to get to work. I walked obsessively and let my husband (a Navy SEAL) put together workouts for me. The only rule I had was that I would not work out for longer than 10 minutes. That was all I could muster. I hated it that much.
So, there I was, eating a nearly paleo diet, walking all day, and swinging a kettle bell in addition to the normal calorie-burning workout of being a new mom. And the weight started to come off. Slowly, but surely. I remember the week my daughter turned one - she started to walk, and I went to a wedding wearing a size eight dress… both equally huge accomplishments in my book.
As I slowly made my way back into tight jeans and tank tops, I vowed if I ever got pregnant again, I would do it differently. For three years I told myself that. For three years we tried.
But three years passed with no luck. So, we called it a day. I was obsessed with my perfect daughter, who was smart, beautiful and athletic, of course. We told each other it was for the best. We loved our little family. We moved on.
So, lets just say, when I woke up nauseous one morning at 41, I was not expecting to be… expecting. But I was. My husband cried with joy, and we both realized how badly we wanted this. And now I had another chance to do pregnancy differently! I was in best shape of my life. I was ready!
Then the morning sickness really hit. The fantasy died, the reality began, and the weight started coming back. At least I was eating kale salads and downing green drinks…but nothing helped. I was pregnant, after all. At least that is what my husband would remind me everyday. But all I saw around me were these tiny pregnant women, wearing stylish clothes and looking adorable. I hated them all.
I hated maternity shopping.
“What was your pre pregnancy size?” the cheery (skinny) salesperson would ask.
“It doesn’t work like that for me,” I’d say sadly, looking down.
“Just tell me!” she’d encourage.
“4 or 6,” I’d manage, sheepishly, and I’d watch her face drop. She’d look me up and down, thinking either I am lying or a freak of nature. I’d walk out with a size 14.
I managed to stay under 200 pounds (okay, just under), which seemed like a feat. At the end of it all, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy 8lbs 14oz baby girl, leaving the hospital a mere three pounds lighter. Ah, well.
It wasn’t until a week or two after bringing our second daughter home from the hospital that the epiphany hit. It’s the thing you know for your entire pregnancy, but don’t want to accept. It’s the first lesson of motherhood: it’s not about you anymore.
It’s not about what you look like or how fat or skinny you are. It’s not about how you feel or how fulfilled you are in every moment. It’s actually not about your personal comfort or well-being at all.
I brought my second baby home and, once again, life became about the most basic needs. My body fed her. My body comforted her and kept her warm. All this child needs to survive in the world is my body, I thought. My fat, old, ugly body. My unshaven legs, blemishes, and wrinkles. My physical imperfections are not only totally irrelevant, but they constitute the body that my infant loves and needs.
In a wave, I decided to love my body, too. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to lose weight and get a facial and shave my legs and take a shower…one day. But I don’t have to do it all today to feel okay. All I have to do is look at my child to know…my body is perfect…to her. And for me, that’s all that matters.
Pregnancy is nature’s crash course in selflessness. It takes away control of our own bodies, I believe, to teach us and prepare us to let go of the noise and focus on the necessity. I’ve come to learn from my friends (whom I thought looked amazing while pregnant) that we are all insecure and uncomfortable at least some of the time. All of us. The take away is…it doesn’t matter. Creating life is much bigger than our body image, bigger than our insecurities, bigger than…well, anything.
My younger daughter is nine months old now, and I am still working on getting fit. Still working on getting back into those skinny jeans. But (finally), I don’t care like I once did. I love my body for all that it can do. And the evidence is the smiling, cooing creature looking up at me. On a daily basis, I remember to see my body (and myself) as she sees it: perfect.
CALLING ALL MODERN MAMAS: ANNOUNCING TILDEN VOICES
TILDEN is about community, and we want to hear your voices! Our first guest article from Rio Hale is live on the Magazine. Submit content for clothing - write about anything you’ve experienced as a new or soon-to-be mom. No word limit. We’ll be curating and editing your work. Please remember to include your full name and email so we can reach you with questions. The first 10 mamas we publish will receive a $200 credit on shoptilden.com.* Submit at email@example.com. Get to work, Mama!